Thirty strongest men from around the world descended on Kasane for World’ Strongest Man annual competition on Friday. Kasane, as one of the world’s prime tourist hubs, had a spectacle as heavily muscled men took centre stage with curious locals abandoning their normal schedules to watch and enjoy. It has also provided a business boom for local restaurants and related businesses including car rentals. The country has as a result enjoyed massive publicity arising from this event. It has been aired to 400 million homes, through 32 different television channels in 74 countries. On off days the athletes took time to enjoy the beauty of the country through tours to Tsodilo Hills, Okavango Delta and other areas within the region. The 10-day event started on Friday evening with a traditional dinner. The competition then began the next morning at the breathtaking Kasane Hot Springs. Other venues for the competition were Mowana Safari Lodge Golf Course and Seboba Cultural Village, which gave the athletes and the filming crews the chance to explore all these beautiful places that make up the Chobe region.
Batswana screamed in excitement as they recognized the face of the giant Hafthor Bjornsson of the hit series Game of Thrones. Bjornsson appreciated the love and the support that Batswana are giving them, saying he was very surprised with the number of people that came to watch them. “This is incredibly amazing. We never thought the people can come to this event like this,” he said. The Minister of Wildlife and Tourism Tshekedi Khama said when they heard that the competition was looking for a host country they sent in their bid. “When this gets televised from November to January, many people will know about Botswana and what we have, and there is nothing better than that. Many countries contended to host this but we won,” he said. He also thanked the people of Kasane for coming in large numbers to every competition because that made a great show for the producers. All the hotels and lodges in Kasane and Kazungula were fully booked because a lot of people came for the event even though some just came to Kasane because it is the peak season for tourists. “Unlike other events that are normally highly publicized, we were not aware of this event and we were just shocked with the number of people that came to our lodges looking for accommodation,” said one of the employees in the local hotels.
The minister said that the whole concept about the event was for giants to meet giants, meaning that since the men are the strongest in the world, it only made sense to bring them to a place of the big giants – the elephants. “Kasane and the Chobe National Park have the highest concentration of elephants, and that is why it had to be the host,” he said. He said they are doing everything that they can to diversify the tourism sector in Botswana and to show what Botswana has to offer. “No country can live or exist in isolation, and we really need to know that the challenges to survive in this economic climate are not easy,” he said. Khama promised that there will be more tourism activities coming up next year that are international level with one dubbed BOT50+1, an idea that the president of Botswana Ian Khama came up with.
He said with the constraint of climate they make sure that they take advantage of every season, because some of the events can only be held either in winter or in summer. About P4 million has been spent on the event and the minister said one of the reasons was for the broadcasters to only talk about nothing else but Botswana during the whole show. “We were buying that right for them to talk about Botswana during their show, and these guys here will also get to talk about their experiences and the word of mouth is better than anything,” he said. One of the residents of Kasane Keoagile Masemola, who runs handcrafted souvenirs venture, appreciated the growing number of tourists in his area. He said they are making a killing because many people buy their products. “What I have realised is that many tourists love our handcrafted products, because they are unique, and I can tell you that even if the business is bad I know that I will sell one in a day, and this is all I do to survive,” he said.